Free to range again
Europe focuses on prevention with lasers and vaccines
Free to range again
European avian influenza experts have suggested that wild birds carrying bird flu should have left most of the continent by now, so it is reasonably safe for producers to allow their freeranging layers outside. This development would restore the much prized ‘free range’ status of the eggs.
Dutch, British and German egg producers all lost their free-range status after a mandatory housing order forced them to keep their birds inside for more than 12 weeks. While the move was initially complied with uncomplainingly, farmers and farmer organisations later said they ‘faced ruin’ after the housing order caused them to lose their status. Even when the virus was still around, there was a call to let birds out again purely for economic reasons. Exporters of poultry meat and hatching eggs will nevertheless suffer for at least another three months until the
affect countries are certified free of bird flu and exports allowed to resume.¡
Greece gets Asian flu
Previously only detected in Asia, Greece is the first European country to report an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N6 strain of bird flu. This development is particularly worrying, as authorities have no idea of the source of this strain of the virus, says the OIE.
Approximately 60 birds have been culled at a farm in the north-west part of Greece, which borders Albania and Macedonia.
Initially, the disease was thought to be the H5N8 strain, but later tests revealed it to be H5N6, which has been occurring in Asian countries since 2014, where the disease has been linked to at least 12 deaths in humans.¡
Russian farm culls flock
Alarge poultry farm near Moscow Oblast is culling 250 000 chickens because of an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain of bird flu. Veterinary authorities are also taking all possible measures to prevent human contamination.
The disease was initially detected on 1 March, and within a few days, more than 6 000 birds had died. The remaining flock at the facility is being culled, and all farms in the region have been instructed to implement stringent biosecurity measures.
Vaccine atomisation for AI immunisation
Afew more research steps to go and then mass vaccination of poultry against bird flu will be a viable option, says Professor of Vaccinology Anke Huckriede of the University→
of Groningen, who adds that good immunisation can be ensured by atomisation of the vaccine in the poultry house.
Huckriede oversees the research done in developing possibilities of mass vaccination of poultry, the best way of which is via inhalation through the lungs. In February 2013, a Dutch consortium consisting of scientists from the University of Groningen, the University Medical Center Groningen, Utrecht University and the Central Veterinary Institute in Lelystad, started with a research project entitled ‘Pulmonary vaccination of chickens against avian influenza using an inactivated virus vaccine’.
Huckriede admits that the developed methods cannot be fielded yet, although the first results show that full protection of the animals against disease symptoms associated with bird flu could be achieved when the vaccine powder was directly administered to the lungs of the poultry. In addition, excretion of virus in those vaccinated animals was reduced to practically zero.¡
Lasers keep chickens safe
The UK government has extended the AI prevention zone to April 2017, with these restrictions causing havoc for free-range and organic poultry farms across the country. However, keepers are being allowed to let their birds out provided they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place and can be kept separate from wild birds. Orchard Eggs in West Sussex is taking advantage of the latest laser technology to protect its birds.
“Our birds are housed across 50 acres of orchard and we want to do everything to keep them safe from infection. The automated laser seemed like an ideal solution to complement all of our other biosecurity measures,” says Daniel Hoeberichts, owner of Orchard Eggs.
The automated laser is an innovative method of repelling unwanted birds without causing harm to the wild birds, the chickens and the surrounding environment. The laser is silent and shows effectiveness of between 90% and 100% in bird dispersal at farms. This makes it a viable alternative to the expensive method of installing nets at the entire poultry farm.¡
Import ban boosts local production
AChinese ban on breeding birds from France and the USA is boosting the profits of local companies, with leading poultry producer Shennong reporting a 275% increase in profits over last year, and Shandong Yisheng Livestock and Poultry Breeding Company posting a 240% increase.
Both companies attribute the dramatic increases to the ban on imported breeders, saying that this is helping to push prices up and increase the overall price of chicken products.¡